· By Analytics OMG
Before I share my birth story, I feel that I first need to say that I normally wouldn't share something so personal. But because of my experience, I think it's something we need to be more open with rather than continuing with this old and outdated stigma of birth being a scary, painful experience. I believe it should be spoken about as a completely normal process that our bodies are insanely capable of. I understand this is my truth. I had an uncomplicated pregnancy and a relatively straightforward birth. There are absolutely things that can go wrong in pregnancy and birth that need to be medically managed. But we also fear what we don't understand. So for any expectant mothers reading, do your homework and do you. So that even if things go sideways, you can feel in control. Give yourself and your baby the best chance not just for the birth itself but for the postpartum period, which is so often overlooked. Knowledge is power.
Like many people, all I'd really heard before my first birth was the pain and the horror stories. People rarely shared the beautiful parts. Though, if I'm being perfectly honest, I fell into this trap after my first birth. It was a long posterior labour, so I had a lot of back pain. I felt the need to somehow justify the use of pain relief and glorify the experience to people. On more than one occasion, I found myself being a little too dramatic rather than saying it for what it was - a standard, long, first labour that stalled when I went into a different environment (the hospital). Leading into my first birth, I thought it would be fine and that I'd be in safe hands. I chose hospitals based on which had lower intervention stats and read the book on hypnobirthing (but couldn't do the course due to covid). By today's standard it was a straightforward labour and delivery (spontaneous labour at 41+6 and had a vaginal delivery). But for me, it wasn't the empowering transformative experience I had imagined. It left me doubting myself and the decisions I'd made. I had agreed to an epidural after 28 hours of intense regular contractions, and still only being at 4cm. I felt cheated and like I'd somehow failed. I had no experienced support throughout the process. While I did have amazing support from Cody and my sister, this was just as new to them as it was to me! The hospital staff were also incredible, but I just felt like it was all medically managed. I wasn't offered any alternatives to drugs or suggestions to help with progression or positions. When you're in the thick of labour, you're not about to start learning then! I couldn't stop thinking about my brother in laws mum, who had 6 kids (2 being twins) with little to no help in Africa. How did they do it? Why couldn't I? So, when I found out I was pregnant with Connor, I knew I wanted to do it differently.
I did the Positive Birth Program run by WA Country Health which is now available to do virtually, which I highly recommend! They also have a positive caesarean program for those needing or choosing a caesarean. I did all of the work for months leading up to the birth. I made sure that I did daily exercises that would help my body prepare for the birth (mamaste fit on Instagram and coreandfloor - both amazing), and did daily mediations, including fear release and affirmations. After Heidi's birth, I was open to any and all tools available! Most importantly, this time, I chose my birth team. Cody and I can't talk highly enough of Kieran from The Nest Southwest. I had actually met Kieran when I was pregnant with Heidi and did all my post-natal care through her. She is also why I had such an easy time breastfeeding - I remember my mum saying, "everyone needs a Kieran". But this time, I chose to have Kieran as my private midwife. At that point, I hadn't decided on a home or hospital birth but knew, either way, I wanted Kieran there. After a straightforward pregnancy and scan at 36 weeks to check everything looked fine, I committed to a home birth. Cody was less than enthusiastic about the idea, but having him question my decision was actually really helpful. It caused me to not only learn more about birth itself to answer his questions, but confirmed why I wanted to have it at home. As I got closer to the end of my pregnancy, I was slowly getting everything ready for my home birth.
Kieran had dropped off the birth pool and chair, and I had everything ready to go, I used:
• A lot of towels! I had been collecting towels leading up to our birth.
• 2 water-resistant picnic rugs from Kmart for the floor. I only ended up using 1. I wanted something we could reuse.
• I brought the absorbent sheets you find in hospitals, but this wasn't necessary as Kieran had them.
• A bowl or container for the placenta.
• Low lighting with candles and fairy lights. There's actually a link between melatonin and oxytocin, it's not just because it looks pretty.
That was really it! When it came to setting up my "birth space", I had aromatherapy and used the same oils that I used during meditations (It helps trigger the body to relax, the brain associates it with that state). I also hired a TENS machine from South West Birth Pool Hire and wood combs for pain relief. As I said before, I was open to trying anything this time. I can honestly say the combination of the TENS and combs was better pain relief than the gas! Surprisingly, the affirmations also helped immensely. It's something I'd heard people do before my birth with Heidi, but I didn't pay much attention. Certain ones really helped me get through those moments of doubt.
Because I went nearly 42 weeks with Heidi, when my due date came, I was actually really relaxed and not expecting anything. Cody and I spent the day fencing, with Heidi's help of course. I think this was really helpful too. I remember the days dragged on leading to Heidi's birth, which increased the anxiety of waiting and wondering. So having a more relaxed approach really helped. Two days later, we had just finished dinner, and I was sitting on the couch. I leant forward to pick something up off the floor and overreached and felt some discomfort. About 5 minutes later, I felt my waters break. It wasn't a gush as expected. It was more of a steady trickle for about 20 minutes. I wasn't convinced it would be anytime soon as I hadn't felt my first contraction yet, and I've heard about people's waters breaking and then labour not starting for hours afterwards. So, I did a couple of last-minute things "just in case". I tied reflective shirts on our turn-off for the second midwife, messaged Kieran to give her the heads up, Cody got Heidi to bed, and we went to bed early to try and get some sleep. At about 8, I felt the first niggle but knew early labour could last quite a while, so I tried to lay there and relax. I did a meditation and listened to some affirmations. Then, at about 9.30, I knew they were getting too intense to sleep so I got up and had a shower. From there, I set the birth pool and chair up. I had intentionally left this until the last minute, knowing they would just become an obstacle course in Heidi's eyes, but in hindsight, I would have done it earlier!
I kept thinking that it could still be a while, but it was starting to progress quickly. I had learnt about "the positive feedback loop" with birth hormones which is why I had set up the "environment" the way I had. But I wasn't quite expecting it to be that effective. When it got to the point that I had to stop and breathe through a contraction, I got the TENS machine set up and just focused on getting in my zone in our room. I wasn't timing contractions at that point as I didn't want to be doing anything that got me out of the zone, but I realised they were quite close and timed one. They were two minutes apart and lasted for 40 seconds. I was surprised it was so close and messaged Cody (who was now in with Heidi after she'd woken up) to come and fill the pool and Kieran, who promptly replied she was on her way. I still had doubt in my mind and hoped I hadn't called her too early. Thankfully I messaged her when I did because about 2 contractions before she arrived, I felt my body automatically bearing down and started to panic. I thought that surely this was too early to push!? What if I got the baby stuck if I wasn't dilated enough? At about 1 am, Kieran arrived and was incredibly calm and reassuring. I just kept focusing on breathing through each surge and resting in between. Code had jumped into action and was getting the pool filled (after a minor mishap with the hoses - definitely something I'd recommend checking earlier). By now, my body had taken over, and I was just going along for the ride. Kieran was coaching me through and got me to make deeper noises. I immediately felt the tension go from my neck to lower as my body was bearing down and getting me to do "horse's breath" breathing out through my lips. I was alternating between leaning over the birth chair and squatting - just surrendering to the feelings, letting my body do what it needed, and staying out of the way. It took everything in me to do the horse's breath and not tense up. It was all I could focus on. It felt like my body had been bearing down for a while with the contractions, but I wasn't looking at the time, so I don't know how long I was like this, but once I started to feel the pressure, Code helped me into the pool. The water instantly gave my body relief, and I could feel his head crowning for what felt like forever. I could hear Kieran saying he had a hand in the way and told me to move where my body was telling me to. Instinctively, I moved my right leg forward, and after the next push, she said, "his arms are out of the way now, feel baby. You're nearly there." I reached down to feel him and felt his head and one shoulder/arm. Apparently, I nearly put my own head under the water, and Code was holding me up. With the next surge, he was out, and I pulled him up onto my chest. I instantly knew he was a boy the way I was holding him. The first thing I felt was a handful of balls and the beautiful euphoria that came with looking into my baby's eyes for the first time. I looked at him and said, "we did it, bud." For me, it was so healing. He taught me how to trust my body and work with it. He taught me how to surrender. In less than 8 hours, I was holding my 4.4kg baby in my arms with all the oxytocin flowing. I don't know how Heidi slept through the last hour, but somehow, she did. From there, I moved onto the bed with him. He had his first little feed, I birthed the placenta, and we waited for it to completely drain before clamping and then Code cut the cord. Then, Code had his first cuddle while I got dressed and sorted. For all those asking and wondering, no I didn't tear. I don't know if it helped, but I had been doing perineal massage for the last few weeks. After this, Code brought me food and what was the best cup of tea I'd ever tasted in my entire life. We then weighed Connor. After that, Kieran and Elisha, the second midwife, went to the kitchen to finish the paperwork before they checked us both over one last time before leaving at about 5.30. Code went in with Heidi after she had stirred, and I watched the room get lighter as the sun came up while soaking up every inch of my baby boy and reflecting on the crazy night that had unfolded.
My wish for every woman is that they can experience that feeling. Whether they experience an elective caesarean, an emergency caesarean, a hospital, home birth, and anything in between. I hope they feel empowered and uplifted by the experience, supported and loved by the people around them, and heard and seen by their providers. Maybe some people will think "what does it matter", but it made all the difference for me. I still had all the oxytocin after Heidi's birth and had no problems bonding with her or feeding her, but my recovery was much longer, and I had a lot more emotion after her birth. After Connor's birth, my recovery was much quicker, and I felt much calmer in the days that followed as we began our life as a family of four. I read a birth story a while ago that explains my experience perfectly, "My first birth taught me about myself and my story, my second allowed me to re-write it".
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